SINGAPORE - Ministers and migrant worker groups alike paid tribute to the contributions of foreign workers on a very different May Day on Friday (May 1).
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo thanked them for their contributions to Singapore in a Facebook video and assured them many Singaporeans were supporting them as they tide through Covid-19. "With your support, we will succeed. And we can celebrate together at the right time," said Mrs Teo.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who also co-chairs a taskforce tackling the coronavirus outbreak here, said in a Facebook post: "We also remember our migrant workers and all that they have done for us.
"That's why we are going all out to take care of them and ensure their overall well-being."
Foreign workers have been the focus of this year's May Day celebrations as they make up a disproportionately large group of Covid-19 patients, and government leaders have assured these workers their health and other needs will be taken care of. Public agencies are also working with non-governmental organisations on these efforts.
Migrant advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) organised a special Labour Day dinner for about 50 foreign domestic workers living in its shelter. The shelter houses foreign domestic workers that have experienced abuse or exploitation, while some are resolving dispute with their employers.
These women will have a small celebration amid the Covid-19 crisis, with food - chicken and vegetable biryani - sponsored by a donor, music and decor.
They will still adhere to safe distancing measures currently in place, with staggered meal times and seating areas marked out at least one metre apart from each other, said shelter supervisor Kalpana Balaji.
"We want to avoid any risk, but we would also like to mark the occasion with them," said Ms Kalpana. "It is to recognise the work that they have done before, and support them in the situations they are going through now, while away from their families," she added.
The workers have been supportive of one another, said Ms Kalpana. A newly-formed entertainment team has organised Zumba and yoga sessions, to keep themselves occupied.
In a May Day statement, Home called for a close examination of the systemic issues affecting migrant workers and to take concrete steps towards bettering their working and living conditions, as well as changing biases and attitudes towards these workers.
The group also made several recommendations, such as better regulation of recruitment practices and to implement readily-available and free helplines and counselling centres to address the migrant workers' mental health needs.
Migrant group Transient Workers Count Too said in its May Day statement that around the world, those who are lowly paid have suffered higher rates of infection. May 1 is hence "a time to reaffirm the common aspiration of working people everywhere for a fairer world, in which all honest labour is respected and enjoys its just reward", it said.
Meanwhile, the Migrant Workers' Centre posted a May Day appreciation video on Facebook on Friday with messages to the migrant workers from its student volunteers.
To support migrant workers here who have been affected by the pandemic, Pizza Hut donated 3,000 personal pan Veggie Lovers pizzas to them.
On Friday, Hindu temples, Hindu organisations and several Indian community groups also began giving out 5,000 care packs to migrant workers who have recovered from Covid-19. The initiative was driven by the Community Seva Committee of the Hindu Endowments Board.
The Singapore Bangladesh Society held a Facebook live show on Friday and launched an online quiz for migrant workers on Covid-19 awareness, open from now till May 5. Prizes include smartphones and shopping vouchers.
Companies here are also recognising their workers this May Day.
Electronics giant Gain City compiled a collage of 800 photos of its workers posing with the Singapore flag. "We want to create the biggest celebration of our labour of love to the country, to the company and to our families," said digital marketing and e-commerce head Terence Ang, who added that the company believes its greatest asset is its people.
Singapore Post invited members of the public to show their appreciation for postal workers by writing or drawing a thank-you message and posting it to social media.
And pre-school operator Star Learners had a special May Day gift for its over 500 teachers and staff. Its chief executive officer Tan Meng Wei and his family spent a month putting together an original song and music video titled You Are My Hero.
The music and lyrics were done by his wife Ms Dawn Tan and sung by younger daughter Deborah, 11. The music video was filmed by elder daughter Danelle, 15, while Mr Tan took the role of sound engineer. Mr Tan has a total of four children.
"The main reason we did this was to encourage our educators and highlight the extra effort they have been putting in during this period,"said Ms Tan, who is head of curriculum at Star Learners.